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Session Overview
RN26_02a_H: Welfare in Interaction
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Ingrid Fylling, Nord University
Location: HA.3.10
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 3.

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Collaboration and networking in child welfare and protection in Norway

Johans Tveit Sandvin1, Cecilie Anvik2, Christian Lo1,2

1Nord University, Norway; 2Nordland Research Institute

Collaboration and networking have become ubiquitous in discussions of welfare reform, especially given potential benefits in service integration and stakeholder synergy, innovative practices and economies of scale. Over the last few years, the Norwegian government has encouraged a range of enhanced collaborative efforts and network schemes in welfare provision, some of which involve various private or voluntary actors.

In an ongoing project, we study inter-organizational collaboration and networking in the area of child welfare and protection (CWP) in Norway. Focus is on enabling and constraining factors that underpin such collaboration and networking. The project contains several phases, in which the first phase involves a mapping of collaborative initiatives and network experiences in a sample of Norwegian municipalities. In Norway, public involvement is comprehensive, and municipalities are expected to take a strong responsibility for social service provision, including for CWP.

The paper presents the patterns revealed from this mapping, including with regard to the type and frequency of collaboration with other services and stakeholders, the benefit of such collaboration and factors that promote and constrain such collaboration. Findings are discussed in relation both to the regulative structures CWP and municipalities are subject to, and in relation to relevant international research.


Meri Susanna Kulmala1, Zhanna Vladimirovna Chernova2, Larisa Shpakovskaya2

1University of Helsinki, Finland; 2Higher School of Economics, Russia

This article studies the policy-making processes behind the major overhaul of the child welfare system recently announced by the Russian government. We highlight the fundamental change in the ‘ideal of care’ represented by the move to ‘deinstitutionalise’ the care system by promoting foster and adoptive families, closing most residential homes and radically reforming remaining ones. In exploring the evolution of the reforms and Russian government thinking on child welfare, we explain that the ‘political will from above’ (volya sverkhu) behind these major reforms was shaped by a range of contextual factors, including advocacy by non-governmental actors, international norms, expert knowledge, shifts in wider family policy as well as public opinion. Such analysis helps to indicate the broader forces shaping policy change in Russia and explain cases when Russian NGOs have unusually high level of participation as ‘epistemic communities’ in policy design.

Social workers as street-level-bureaucrats in processes of eviction risk among families in Sweden

Stina Fernqvist

Uppsala University, Sweden

In the Swedish welfare state, assessment of applications regarding benefits for rent costs varies greatly between municipalities. This could partly be explained by formulations in the legislation but also by the inherent discretion in social work practice. This study focuses on practices of categorization in processes of eviction risk among families, where there are indications of parental cognitive difficulties. The paper in question aims at exploring social workers’ discretionary approaches in these client interactions, and specifically how indications of cognitive difficulties are handled in relation to financial problems. This paper highlights how they, as street-level-bureaucrats (Lipsky, 1980), define and assess these clients’ needs of support but also how they view their professional role and the scope for interventions regarding parental impairments in relation to need for income support.

This qualitative analysis is based on a small section of the above-mentioned study, consisting of interviews with nine social workers in different units of the social welfare agency, who encounter families in eviction risk and use discretion in their exercise of public authority. The tentative findings show that although the interviewees note that cognitive difficulties may partly explain the need for income support on a general level, the strategies to 1) address indications of impairments, 2) emphasize the possible correlations between impairments and the financial problems and 3) adjust the process and/or offer alternative interventions vary greatly, which among other things suggest that the social workers may not get a full account of their clients’ situation which in turn may affect the access to proper support.

Utilizing Meta-Ethnography as a Methodological Approach in the Study of Innovation in Children and Youth Welfare Services

Ingrid Fylling, Johans Tveit Sandvin, Robert Bye, Berit Vannebo

Nord University, Norway

Research on innovation in welfare services has grown extensively over the last years. Welfare innovation projects address and challenge traditional ways of service delivery, proposing new and innovative ways of organising welfare services as well as developing new services. In this particular research project, we study research on welfare innovation projects directed towards children and youth services. Innovative services in these areas might include initiatives aimed at preventing high school dropout, developing new forms of child protection services, and programs aimed at physical education and healthy eating for children and youth.

The aim of the project is to synthesize qualitative studies of welfare innovations in the field of child and youth protection in Norway, using a meta-ethnographic approach. According to Strike and Posner (1988), a meta-ethnographic approach also involves some degree of conceptual innovation as means of creating the whole. A meta-ethnographic analysis thus implies developing new concepts that capture the essence and the contribution of research studies combined. In this paper, we discuss methodological challenges in designing a meta-ethnographic project. One challenge when using the meta-ethnographic approach is defining the scope of relevant research in a field, or principles of inclusion and exclusion when mapping a particular topic of interest. We present and discuss different strategies for sampling relevant research contributions on the topic of innovation in welfare services aimed at children and youth. We also discuss the benefits of using the meta-ethnographic approach in areas where little research exists, and find that particular strategies of inclusion and exclusion allow us to map various kinds of relations between studies in this area

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